Madison: Gary Scelzi Saturday summary

SCELZI COLLECTS HIS FIFTH POLE AT GATEWAY INTL RACEWAY, THIRD OF YEAR MADISON, Ill. (June 25, 2005) - Gary Scelzi continued his dominant performance at Gateway International Raceway by grabbing his fifth and second straight Funny Car pole...

SCELZI COLLECTS HIS FIFTH POLE AT GATEWAY INTL RACEWAY, THIRD OF YEAR

MADISON, Ill. (June 25, 2005) - Gary Scelzi continued his dominant performance at Gateway International Raceway by grabbing his fifth and second straight Funny Car pole position at this track, as well as his third of the year and 39th career for Sunday's NHRA Nationals, the 12th round of 23 in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

The driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car has three Top Fuel wins here (1998, '99 and '00), one Funny Car title (2004), and one Top Fuel runner-up (1997). His previous No. 1 qualifiers were in 1997, '99, '01, '04.

Scelzi still holds the Funny Car ET and speed track records of 4.724 seconds and 330.23 mph, set last year.

Under near-100-degree conditions the last two days, with temperatures dropping only minimally during the night sessions, Scelzi posted a 5.113/202.57, a 4.890/318.39, and a 5.038/278.06 before the stunning 4.797-second ET at 325.14 mph he established tonight.

The three-time Top Fuel champion who is seeking his first Funny Car championship will face Terry Haddock in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. His rival for the crown, points leader John Force, qualified 15th and faces Scelzi's teammate Ron Capps in the opening stanza.

Scelzi seems to own this quarter-mile just over the bridge from St. Louis in Illinois. "I don't know why," he said. "It's not like if I could pick a place this would be the one I would pick to come to. Only because of the weather, really. There's nothing wrong with this place. It's just usually so humid hot and miserable, it just kills you.

"It's hard on the guys, running late at night. It just makes for a long day.

"Qualifying No. 1 is good. We went down the race track every time. First round today we broke an intake valve which should have exploded and blew the body all over in a million pieces. For whatever reason, it didn't.

"(Bazemore's co-crew chief) Dan Olson said I must have good karma here. Sometimes you go into places (even) with two different crew chiefs and you just do well. This has got to be the absolute best I've ever done anywhere at one race track, even Pomona, I believe.

"It's great to be qualified No. 1, but tomorrow is going to be anybody's race. Terry Haddock has just as good a shot at winning this thing as I do because of the temperature and the track conditions being slippery.

"We went for the pole tonight. That was our plan. If it smoked the tires (we'd know that at least) we'd been down the race track in the heat, so we felt we had a pretty good race car.

"Another good thing is that lane choice will not matter. I hate going to a race track where lane choice is a big factor. And so far this year they've been pretty good about that. It's been basically a two-lane race track."

His teammate Capps could be a savior in the first round tomorrow against John Force, along with his other teammate Whit Bazemore who could meet up with Force in the semifinal, while Scelzi is on the other side of the ladder.

"Capps or Bazemore are two bad Joses on the starting line and they're good drivers and Force knows that," Scelzi said, "now that they both have cars that can run, and that's what we need. We have to do just like we did a few weeks ago (in Chicago where Scelzi won the race after Force lost in the first round). If that happens, we have to win this race. I'm going to to tell you, a 200-point lead on Force is not enough."

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Terry Haddock